Monday, August 6, 2012

Ben Stoeger's 2-Day Advanced Competition Pistol Class

After Action Report: Ben Stoeger's 2-Day Advanced Competition (USPSA) Pistol Class
July 28th and 29th, 2012 at the Holmen Rod & Gun Club in Holmen, WI

Most of the guys on Team WIILSHOOT are primarily competition shooters and when we got a chance to take a lesson with Ben Stoeger, we decided to go "all in!" 6 of us rolled up to Holmen last weekend to listen and learn to the 2011 USPSA Production-class National Champion, Ben Stoeger. We were most interested in his observations of our match performance.

This AAR gives a brief overview of the topic presented, the teaching style used and some of the more interesting observations.

My Background
I'm a fairly seasoned competitive shooter - my background is here: Most of the guys that I rolled up with are also pretty salty too.

My Gear
Through the course, I ran a Glock model 22 in .40 using my reloads: 5.7gr of Power Pistol with a 165gr Precision Delta jacketed bullet. Additionally, I ran a Safariland ELS belt with Safariland 5188 holster and Safariland 773 pouches. My gear ran just fine.

Class Statistics
The weather in Holmen was nice, sunny and a bit hot on Saturday, and rainy, humid and hot on Sunday. The Holmen Rod & Gun Club was well organized, and folks welcomed us.

Ben had two helpers, Lori and Ronnie Casper. They helped with logistics immensely! Both are pretty seasoned too: Ronnie is a GM Production shooter and Lori is a Master-class Production shooter. Kita Stoeger, Ben's lovely wife, also helped out by demoing the Ghost mag pouches.

The course had 11 people:
2 Open shooters (my teammates Scotty and Chris). Both ran Akai open guns with C-More optics in .38 Super (supercomp)
3 M&P shooters - I think all were 9mm.
3 Glock Shooters - 2 9's and a .40
3 Limited Shooter - 1 with a 6" Brazos in .40, 1 running an STI in .40 that had some issues and my teammate running a Tanfoglio .40
Ben, ran his Beretta Elite2 in 9mm when he had to. (He ran my teammate, Kozy's, open gun a bunch too...) I got a chance to run Ben's gear and it was pretty sweet - I've since bought a Beretta Elite (not an Elite 2). (I have massive hands!)

Day 1
We started out by going over the course structure. A syllabus was presented (and was followed pretty closely). Ben announced early that he was there to push the better shooters to failure and would be "fucking with us" in order to get us past mental hurdles. Additionally, in order to apply external stress, Ben would award dogs tags for performance objectives - think of the Fast Drill Challenge Coin.

We started out by shooting five pairs on a 25 yard target at a buzzer prompt with no time limit, with an objective was to assess accuracy. Two shooters tied, both with 2 "Charlie" hits. They agreed to shoot 25 yards upper-"Alpha" with a time limit of 10 seconds. The shooter with the 6" Brazos limited gun landed 5 shots with a single "Alpha" while I popped 6 shots to the head, but landed all "Bravo"'s. All of this was accompanied by much trash-talking and bravado.

Next up we worked on the drawstroke on 7 yard USPSA Metric targets. Ben ran through everyone's draw and for those capable, urged them to shoot "faster!". Interestingly, he'd ask a shooter to shoot into the berm, without even seeing the sights, just to acclimatize them to operating faster. Ben would quip that most often people are taught to sacrifice speed for accuracy. However, what if you could do the inverse? Wouldn't that also be an interesting and valid exercise? The proof was in the pudding - often times a student would get on the line and bust out a solid 1.2 draw, and ben would have 'em shoot into the berm, busting out .90's which then had them landing ~1second draws when back on the target.

After a short break, we moved on to relaxation and started shooting 10 yard Bill Drills and Bill Drills with Reloads. I was mildly tuned out during this part since I'm pretty comfortable with both these skills (reloads vid). I started paying more attention when we started shooting transitions: Ben and Ronnie setup a series of staggered targets. A wide-open 5 yard target, a no-shoot headshot at 10 yards, and a ~20 yard wide-open target. We ran from left-to-right, right-to-left, near-to-far, far-to-near, etc. Was an excellent drill to do while Ben tried to wring every last bit of speed from the student.

Keeping with transitions, we started working on steel targets and plate racks, culminating in a shoot-off. ( I narrowly beat Scotty with his open gun, winning a challenge tag!) Afterwards, we broke for lunch, which was provided: PIZZA!

Upon coming back to the range we worked on cadence shooting, pushing the speed of our transitions faster. When that became easy, Ben would start to spread the targets further apart, trying to push the student to their failure point.

We moved on to movement next. It was interesting since Ben's concept of shooting on the move had changed a bit: shoot on the move when it is necessary, otherwise, try to guarantee the hits by remaining static. The more important concept seemed to be moving into and out of positions, minimizing shuffling of feet and readjustment of a students body, orienting to the targets. I should point out that this is a very natural progression - static, manipulations, culminating in movement.

We capped the day off by shooting El Pres for another challenge tag.

Day 1 Culmination - Some Observations
Ben's style is at once informal and engaging, constantly challenging the shooter to examine the premises they hold true. While he talks a lot of trash and whips up sayings like, "It's better to shoot fast and miss than to shoot like a pussy...", which, while crass, are apt observations for folks trying to race in USPSA. He is surprisingly logical, having examined almost every aspect of "the game" from so many angles...

We finished off the night, but putting away several cases of beer, eating a grilled/smoked 8lbs pork shoulder and trash talking way into the night.

Day 2
We geared up and shot the club match, 6 stages, including the classifier El President. As soon as a shooter performed, Ben would jump in and explain his observations. For some of the more advanced student he'd exhort them to execute faster or "let go..." This was by far one of the more interesting sections of the course. It was like personal coaching, even though he was busy watching all the shooters. While the weather was crappy, we had a great time busting caps and listening to Ben.

After the match, we tried taking the 50 yard challenge on Classic USPSA targets ("turtles" or "stop signs"). I lost a $10.00 bet to the guy with the 6" Brazos... This time it really was just the fact that my G22 couldn't group well at 50... (Hey I had to try to school him!)

We grabbed lunch and waited for scores to come in, after which we held a Pro-AM-style shoot off (video) for another challenge tag.

The day culminated with Ben guiding us through the stages and what each one tested - we capped off the day with him running Kozy's open gun a few times!

Ben is an excellent teacher, prodding his students to their limits in order to guide them through to greater heights. While the course material is very specific and oriented to advanced competition shooters, it really does help those specific folks through the hurdles that they may be encountering.